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Voting stickers are seen at the Ohio Union during the U.S. presidential election at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio November 6, 2012.

New battles take shape in the 'war on voting'

03/25/15 03:44PM

In recent years, Republican efforts to curtail voting rights have led to the largest voter-suppression campaign since the Jim Crow era, but there are some states pushing back against the tide. Oregon recently took creative new steps to expand voter registration, and policymakers in California yesterday said they're eager to follow suit. Vermont may soon do the same.
But in Republican-controlled "red" states, policies intended to prevent voter participation continue to proliferate. The Columbus Dispatch reports on the latest out of Ohio.
Dismissing Democrats' cries of voter suppression, majority legislative Republicans are poised to require those who register to vote in Ohio to also obtain state driver's licenses and vehicle registrations. [...]
Democrats tried to remove the provision, saying it constitutes a "poll tax" on out-of-state college students, who would have to spend $75 or more on license and registration fees within 30 days of registering to vote.
As the Dispatch article notes, current law in Ohio allows students, among others, to claim Ohio residency and vote while retaining out-of-state drivers' licenses. This change -- a "last-minute addition" to Ohio's transportation budget -- may force tens of thousands of young people to pay a fair amount of money to cast a ballot in the state they call home.
Republican proponents say the idea isn't related to blocking students' access to the polls. These are the same policymakers who, in recent years, have curtailed voter registration,  made it harder for voters to receive absentee ballots, cut back early-voting opportunities, and scrapped Sunday voting altogether.
Perhaps it's just a coincidence, then, that GOP state lawmakers have also imposed a new hurdle on young adults who, it so happens, tend to vote Democratic.

White House supports Boehner/Pelosi 'doc fix' plan

03/25/15 12:56PM

With President Obama expressing support for the idea this morning, it's probably time to get up to speed on what may be House Speaker John Boehner's (R-Ohio) first real legislative accomplishment since getting the gavel in 2011.
President Barack Obama pronounced himself "ready to sign" a bipartisan "doc fix" Wednesday.
"I've got my pen ready to sign a good, bipartisan bill," Obama said at an event that amounted to a victory lap for the five-year anniversary of the Affordable Care Act.
He said he loves to sign bipartisan legislation and hopes to see more efforts to work together, and said the health care law works, crediting it with saving lives while reducing health care cost growth and the deficit.
I suspect there are more than a few folks asking, "What's the 'doc fix'?" This gets a little wonky, but it's pretty important in health care circles, and given the way the solution came together recently, it's a breakthrough that's worth understanding.

Wednesday's Campaign Round-Up, 3.25.15

03/25/15 12:00PM

Today's installment of campaign-related news items that won't necessarily generate a post of their own, but may be of interest to political observers:
* In his first day as an announced Republican presidential candidate, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) raised $500,000. That's a decent haul, though it won't strike fear in the heart of Jeb Bush.
* In Florida, the latest PPP survey found that only 37% of voters statewide believe former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) should run for president. Sen. Marco Rubio (R) fares slightly worse among his constituents, 35% of whom want the senator to run for the White House.
* In Indiana, where Sen. Dan Coats (R) is retiring, his likely successors are wasting no time. Five Republicans from the U.S. House, Coats' state-based chief of staff, and the Speaker of the Indiana state House have all expressed interest in running.
* On a related note, among Democratic Hoosiers, former Rep. Baron Hill is clearly interested, though former Sen. Evan Bayh is the one most of the state is keeping an eye on.
* In Michigan, Rep. Dan Benishek (R) promised voters he'd stick to a self-imposed term limit of three terms. As is often the case, the congressman, recently elected for the third time, announced yesterday he's changed his mind and will run for a fourth term.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) at National Harbor, Maryland, outside Washington, DC on Feb. 26, 2015.

Christie adopts a new posture on guns

03/25/15 11:13AM

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) spoke with Republican donors over the weekend in South Florida, urging them to be wary of presidential hopefuls who've flip-flopped on important issues.
Keep that in mind when considering the latest report on the unannounced presidential hopeful (thanks to my colleague Tricia McKinney for the heads-up).
Gov. Chris Christie said he would consider revisiting New Jersey's strict gun laws if he had a Republican-led legislature.
In response to a question about his support for the Second Amendment, the potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate said that New Jersey's Democrat-led Legislature has sent him only bills that further restrict these rights, many of which he has vetoed.
Asked about the Second Amendment at a town-hall meeting yesterday, the governor told voters, "Send me a Republican legislature. And with a Republican legislature you'll have a governor who will respect, appropriately, the rights of law-abiding citizens to be able to protect ourselves.... No rights are given to you by government. All our rights are given to you by God."
The theological reference was a bit odd under the circumstances. Even if Christie genuinely believes the Second Amendment creates a God-given entitlement to firearm ownership, it's up to policymakers -- humans, in positions of governmental authority -- to shape and place limits on this right.
In fact, the Garden State governor used to know that. As the Wall Street Journal noted, Christie used to say he supports "strictly enforcing" New Jersey's existing gun-control laws -- policies the governor now seems ready to roll back with the help of GOP lawmakers.
What's more, this isn't the first time Christie has played political games with gun-safety measures.
Attendees look at a display of ammunition during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 3, 2013 in Houston, Texas.  More than 70,000 people are expected to attend the NRA's 3-day annual meeting that...

GOP senator looks to 'protect popular ammunition'

03/25/15 10:40AM

It's been nearly three decades since President Reagan signed into law a gun-safety measure intended to restrict "cop killer" bullets. But under the law, some ammunition, including armor-piercing "green tip" bullets, was exempted because they were "primarily intended to be used for sporting purposes."
As we recently discussed, the argument at the time was pretty straightforward: these bullets couldn't be used in handguns, so there was no point in keeping them out of the hands of hunters.
But firearm technology has improved and there are now handguns that can fire these bullets. It led the Obama administration's ATF to take a fresh look at the 1986 exemption. Is it time to adapt federal regulations to improve public safety, most notably for law-enforcement officials?
Apparently not -- in the face of an overwhelming public response from gun enthusiasts, ATF scrapped the idea and left the ammunition alone. One Senate Republican has said that's not good enough.
A budget amendment offered Tuesday by Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) would prohibit the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) from placing new restrictions on bullets that are popular with hunters.
The far-right Oklahoman said his proposal is intended to "protect popular ammunition."
Remember, at this point, it doesn't appear as if "popular ammunition" needs much protection. Officials considered restrictions on "cop killer" bullets, but then backed off. It'll probably be a while before anyone even considers a similar effort to protect law enforcement from armor-piercing ammo.
But Inhofe's making this a priority anyway, just in case.
An employee at a money changer counts $100 bills.

Lifestyles of the rich and disgruntled

03/25/15 10:00AM

Politically engaged millionaires have developed certain expectations in recent years. Especially at the start of a presidential nominating race, when candidates routinely cultivate relationships with prospective donors, the wealthy donor class has come to believe it's entitled to personalized attention from those seeking national office.
The Washington Post reports today, however, that many of these millionaires are suddenly feeling neglected. Apparently, they're not quite rich enough anymore to warrant candidates' time.
At this point in the 2012 presidential race, Terry Neese was in hot demand. "Gosh, I was hearing from everyone and meeting with everyone," said Neese, an Oklahoma City entrepreneur and former "Ranger" for President George W. Bush who raised more than $1 million for his reelection.
This year, no potential White House contender has called -- not even Bush's brother, Jeb. The only e-mails came from staffers for two other likely candidates; both went to her spam folder.
"Staffers"? Politically engaged millionaires have been reduced to hearing from aides rather than the candidates themselves? The horror.
Evidently, in this new environment, with a proliferation of hyper-wealthy donors, mere millionaires don't receive the consideration and responsiveness to which they've grown accustomed. Neese told the Post that the major Republican presidential hopefuls are "only going to people who are multi-multi-millionaires and billionaires."
One former Bush Ranger complained, "What about when I get to the convention? Last time, I was sitting in a box. This time, I may not even get a ticket!"
And just think: even if he or she gets a ticket to the Republican National Convention, the former Bush Ranger may have to sit with the riff raff.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee delivers remarks during the Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., March 7, 2014.

Email troubles spread for Clinton critics

03/25/15 09:23AM

In the context of the 2016 presidential race, Hillary Clinton's critics have raised legitimate questions about her use of a private email account during her tenure as Secretary of State. The problem has been that many of those same critics are vulnerable to the exact same questions -- many Republican White House hopefuls used private accounts to conduct official business and/or shielded communications from public scrutiny.
Tim Murphy noted yesterday that Mike Huckabee belongs on the same list.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee thinks questions about Hillary Clinton's emails as secretary of state "will linger" throughout the 2016 presidential race. "If the law said you had to maintain every email for public inspection, that's what you got to do," he recently told ABC News. Huckabee also suggested that the missing emails might shed new light on the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
Huckabee, who is considering a second run for president himself, is probably right that the issue of secrecy will dog Clinton's campaign going forward. But he might not be the best man to make that case. As Mother Jones reported in 2011, Huckabee destroyed his administration's state records before leaving office in 2007.
Email was, of course, a common tool used during Huckabee's tenure, but when the Arkansas Republican left office, according to his successor's chief legal counsel, all of the computers used by the GOP governor and his aides were removed. What's more, all of the hard drives were "physically destroyed."
The former governor has not yet explained why it was necessary to keep these materials hidden.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R), meanwhile, was already facing questions for criticizing Clinton despite his own controversial email policies, and overnight, an Associated Press report made matters just a little more complicated: "As Florida governor, Jeb Bush used another, previously unreported email address, records show -- the newest wrinkle in an evolving debate over public officials' use of private email accounts."
U.S. House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. Pete Sessions walks to a meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 30, 2013.

Sessions stumbles on 'simple multiplication'

03/25/15 08:40AM

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Rules Committee, has earned an unfortunate reputation. The six-term congressman and former chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee just doesn't seem overly interested in substantive details.
About a year ago, for example, Sessions seemed to forget what a "witch hunt' is. The year before, Sessions said he believes it's "immoral" to extend jobless aid to "long-term unemployments [sic]." Around the same time, the congressman said the House should stop worrying about governing and focus exclusively on "messaging."
Earlier this month, the Texas Republican said he holds President Obama "personally accountable" for murders committed by undocumented immigrants, pointing to imaginary evidence.
Yesterday, Sessions added a mathematical error to his list of greatest hits.
In an apparent miscalculation, House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas) claimed Tuesday that ObamaCare will cost $5 million per person.
Precisely how Sessions arrived at that calculation during House floor debate on the budget is unclear.
Yes, on the House floor yesterday, the GOP lawmaker not only failed to do his math homework before speaking, he presented his false argument in a surprisingly condescending way for someone who didn't know what he was talking about.
"If you just do simple multiplication," Sessions said, "12 million [consumers] into $108 billion, we are talking literally every single [ACA] recipient would be costing this government more than $5 million per person for their insurance. It's staggering.... $108 billion for 12 million people is immoral. It's unconscionable."
Let's take Sessions' advice and "do simple multiplication."
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) delivers remarks announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination to run for US president March 23, 2015, inside the Vine Center at Liberty University, in Lynchburg, Va. (Photo by Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty)

Ted Cruz embraces unexpected label: Obamacare customer

03/25/15 08:00AM

Political hypocrisy can be a tricky thing. A few years ago, for example, Republicans condemned President Obama's stimulus package, the "Recovery Act," even while pleading for stimulus funds for their states and districts.
This was not, strictly speaking, hypocrisy -- GOP lawmakers opposed the endeavor that rescued the economy, but concluded that if the resources were available, they might as well take advantage. The problem was that Republicans said Recovery Act dollars were incapable of boosting the economy, unless the dollars were spent on their constituents -- an intellectually dishonest posture.
All of which leads us to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and his embrace of an unexpected label: Obamacare customer.
Just one day after Ted Cruz launched his bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination with another attack on President Obama's signature health care law, the Texas senator made a second, more surprising announcement: He's signing up for Obamacare.
"We will presumably go on the exchange and sign up for health care and we're in the process of transitioning over to do that," Cruz told The Des Moines Register on Tuesday.
Apparently, the senator and his family have enjoyed coverage through his wife's private-sector employer, but because she's taking an unpaid leave of absence, the Cruzes will do what millions of other Americans have done: take advantage of benefits available through the Affordable Care Act.
And on the surface, there's nothing wrong with that. Like the Republicans who foolishly condemned Obama's stimulus initiative, Cruz does not believe ACA benefits should exist, but so long as they do, the right-wing presidential candidate is comfortable receiving those benefits in order to help himself and his family.
Whether or not this constitutes hypocrisy is debatable. But either way, we're left with the awkward realization that Ted Cruz wants the Affordable Care Act to stop helping your family and start helping his own family.

Black box damaged and other headlines

03/25/15 07:58AM

German plane's black box is damaged, but could still yield clues. (NBC News)

Bipartisan deal on health care issues hits a snag among Senate Democrats. (New York Times)

Cheney rallies troops and rakes in cash at GOP dinner. (New York Times)

Afghan president expected to get warm welcome from Congress. (AP)

Ex-prosecutor of exonerated death row inmate pens apology. (AP)

Bill O'Reilly stops by Letterman to gloat about scandal survival. (New York Magazine)

AP tracks supply chain of fish caught by slaves all the way to the U.S.  (AP)

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About The Rachel Maddow Show

Launched in 2008, “The Rachel Maddow Show” follows the machinations of policy making in America, from local political activism to international diplomacy. Rachel Maddow looks past the distractions of political theater and stunts and focuses on the legislative proposals and policies that shape American life - as well as the people making and influencing those policies and their ultimate outcome, intended or otherwise.

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